Catching a 40-pound yellowtail with rod and reel is a tough challenge because the prized game fish are so swift and powerful. But for Cody Martin, all that was needed to land one was a surfboard and his bare hands — and, most noteworthy, some assistance from a large pod of dolphins.
The bizarre event played out Thursday, about 100 yards beyond the Manhattan Beach Pier in Southern California. Cody and his father, Eric, watched from the end of the pier as about 100 common dolphins aggressively fed on schooling sardines. Some of the dolphins then turned their attention to a large fish.
“The dolphins were using the yellowtail as a toy,” Cody Martin said.
The dolphins appeared to be grabbing the fish with their teeth and pulling it through the water column, but did not seem to be trying to eat the yellowtail, which when captured would reveal rake marks caused by dolphin teeth.
Because it was so far at sea, neither Cody nor Eric could identify the fish, Cody decided to paddle his blue surfboard out to investigate. Eric, co-director at the pier’s Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, watched through binoculars.
As Cody approached the scene, and the dolphins dispersed, he realized it was a yellowtail and that it was beyond saving.
“Then I thought, ‘Dinner!’ ” he said. (Yellowtail, in the jack family, are prized as table fare.)
Using his right hand, Cody grabbed the yellowtail by the gills, and it swam beneath his board. So he reached down with his left hand and grabbed the fish by its other gill plate.
Ultimately, he was able to wrestle the fish onto his board and paddle to the pier, in a sitting position, with the fish in his lap (see photo at right).
“There was a really big crowd,” he said. “It was hilarious.”
Eric Martin, a marine biologist who said he has never witnessed dolphins harassing game fish, hoisted the yellowtail onto the pier with a rope. (Common dolphins, which can measure to about eight feet, feed primarily on small fish and squid.)
Over dinner — the fillets were barbecued in a teriyaki-pineapple sauce — Cody’s grandfather recalled the good old days when yellowtail catches were made frequently in the area.
That may be true, but there are no records of any of those catches being made by hand, with prior assistance of dolphins.
Now there’s at least one.
– Note: Cody Martin will be featured on the Philip Friedman Outdoors radio show Thursday night between 8-10 p.m.
More on Grindtv.com
VIDEO: Massive mako shark stuns anglers
VIDEO: Tiger shark swims away with $15,000 camera
VIDEO: 1,100-pound monster surgeon caught
– Photo: Cody Martin poses with prized yellowtail catch made after the fish was injured by dolphins. Credit: Eric Martin